The devastation caused by the earthquake in Christchurch was a shock to everyone, especially when you realise that a structure as large and solidly built as Christchurch Cathedral could be damaged so badly, so quickly. Though the building is damaged, the ministry provided by the Cathedral continues. Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, has designed a temporary structure that allows the work of the Cathedral to continue while the old Cathedral is rebuilt.
Ban’s work is one on the most interesting of contemporary architects. In design school, we were given the task of building structures from the materials Ban commonly uses: cardboard. It is harder than it looks but allows an architect creative freedom, drawing on the tensile strength of the material but also making use of its qualities: it is light and cheap.
Ban’s design for the temporary structure for the Cathedral does not disappoint. Light floods the internal space of the structure through the local artisan made stained glass windows. Though utilising the conventional forms of a cathedral: vaulted roof, stained glass and open spaces, the use of cardboard means that it can be constructed in around 3 months from start to finish and, because specialist construction skills are not needed, volunteer labour can be used.
I hope that once the Cathedral is repaired, some remnants of the structure will remain as a testament to the spirit of the people of Christchurch.
BTW, you can see more of the structures of Shigeru Ban Architects on their website here. The scope of the work they are doing as a response to the Japanese earthquake is compelling.
11 August 2011